In his magnum opus, The Secular Age, the philosopher Charles Taylor charts western society’s unprecedented shift from a consensus belief in transcendent reality to a worldview that is much more immanent or ‘this-world’. Taylor argues, rightly, that we can over-emphasize the extent to which we have left behind a belief in transcendent reality as we Read more…

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Here’s an interesting piece by Ross Andersen in the Atlantic on cognitive enhancements and trans-cranial direct current stimulation, which I wrote on in last Friday’s newsletter. It’s interesting how science fiction films have thought out these questions ahead of most academics – so they are the maps and symbols that guide us as we try Read more…

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Could we use technology and drugs to enhance our cognitive, emotional and physical capacities and become super-humans? This idea, or dream, is certainly riddled through contemporary popular culture, from the Bourne Supremacy to Iron Man, from Limitless to the transhumanist computer game Deus Ex. But now the idea seems to be leaping effortlessly from comic Read more…

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Over at the New York Times’ excellent Opinionator blog, philosophers Peter Singer and Agata Sagan ponder whether we should all be prescribed ‘morality pills’ to make us more altruistic (I nicked the amusing illustration from that site as well – it’s by Leif Parsons). The authors write: Researchers at the University of Chicago recently took Read more…

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Yesterday, I went to the British Academy, to hear Richard Easterlin, the father of happiness economics, present his latest thinking. Sir Gus O’Donnell, the head of the civil service, was in the audience, and he made a very interesting point, which I will come to. Easterlin asked the provocative question: does higher income raise happiness Read more…

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